Now that the Yanks are in "must win every game" mode, even matchups against the Devil Rays have become epic struggles. In that context, Robinson Cano could be said to have come up with one of the big moments of the season, with a 6th inning Grand Slam, in the Yanks' 9-5 win over Tampa Bay. Cano's big fly tied a 5-1 game, and was followed by some more home run magic by Alex Rodriguez (tied for the league lead in homers with 42).
On the downside, the magical pixie dust on Aaron Small seems to have worn off a bit--since shutting out Oakland on September 3rd, he's given up nine runs in 13 innings. He is still undefeated, but this looks like a blinking warning light on the dashboard. Also, there was a bit of struggle by Gordon and Rivera to close out the game--Gordon couldn't finish out the inning, forcing Torre to extend Mariano, again--before the boys put up a couple of insurance runs in the top of the ninth.
It's great to finally sweep the Devil Fishies, but man, that was a lot of effort. Luckily, everyone else seems to also be "grinding it out" in the AL: the Indians are within five games of the seemingly-untouchable White Sox; the A's and Angels are locked together, and haven't been much more than three games apart for a month or two; and the Yanks are within two games of the Red Sox, who have been continuously rescued by the dramatic homers of David Ortiz. This is a white-knuckle ride, and I'm just happy I can still type with my hands gripping the handlebars (metaphorically speaking).
This is one of those things about clubhouse chemistry--when he was with the Twins, Ortiz was branded a bad clubhouse guy. Bad conditioning, didn't like to work, wouldn't accept coaching--and this was why Tom Kelly, who planted these stories with the press, kept on jerking him around for a job.
Now, Ortiz is one of the more universally-admired types in the game. He's the glue that holds the Red Sox together. Even though Ortiz has murdered the Yanks time and time again I cannot bring myself to hate him.
Was Big Papi magically transformed when he came to Fenway? Did he learn hard lessons from all that time in AAA, which made him from a crumb to a solid clubhouse citizen? Maybe. Or it could be that much of the time, what we are told is "clubhouse chemistry" is actually just a story made up by sportswriters, based upon the agendas of their clubhouse sources?
Remember back in October, when we said that heads would roll for the Yanks' 2004 ALCS loss? This may be like one of those Samurai movies, where you see flash of the sword, but only after a five second dramatic pause does the opposition's head fall away from the body. If you believe Bill Madden in the Daily News, the rolling head belongs to Stick Michaels, who has been marginalized among the Yanks' Tampa Politburo by Damon Oppenheimer and Bill Emslie. Given that Michaels is on the outs, Cashman's in his walk year, and Steinbrenner has receded from public life, we could be looking at a full-fledged coup d'etat in Yankeeland. Stay tuned.